I was excited to learn about the amazing, free and powerful planetarium software program Stellarium this week, and have taken some time to play with it a bit since. This morning with one of our science professors, we used it to discover exactly where the moon was the morning of April 15, 1912 when the Titanic sank.
According to this timeline of Titanic from HistoryOnTheNet, at 2:05 am the morning of April 15, 1912, the last lifeboat left the ship. The screenshot captured here shows the view looking east from the middle of the North Atlantic, and you can see a thin crescent moon rising. The exact date/time of this simulated view is shown in the upper left corner: we chose 1:30 am, about a half hour before the last lifeboat left the ship. Stellarium also lets you put the sky in motion, so you can see how the moon rose and the stars moved as the Titanic survivors waited for rescue. That rescue arrived a little after 4:00 am. I can hardly imagine how dark it must have been out there on the open ocean, and what a tragically emotional event that must have been, to listen to the voices of the freezing and dying as the night’s sky was above in all its splendor– sans any sort of light pollution what-so-ever.
Apparently James Cameron, director of the movie “Titanic,” got this wrong in the movie when he depicted the actual location and phase of the moon. The planet Venus was also visible, very close to the moon.
Stellarium is an AMAZING program, and it is free! Potential uses of Stellarium are only limited by our imaginations. I can’t wait to go stargazing with my family now, armed with my laptop and Stellarium– it can show live locations of all sorts of stars, planets, constellations, etc. A thorough, 81 page user guide (in PDF) is available from the Stallarium website.
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